It is for sometime now that Kashmir has been in the grip of a severe cold wave. And as has always been the case, the freezing cold is reinforced by the severe power shortage which happens to be nobody’s concern, either in the government or in the opposition. That is beyond the rhetorical noise. This only shows how much this seasonal power crisis has become a naturalized part of our lives. So much so that the people have now grudgingly resigned themselves to the state of affairs and the government doesn’t feel unduly worried about the situation either. Though in a meeting in early December Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had directed the Power Development Department to ensure a strict adherence to the curtailment schedule, the situation has hardly improved. The result is a drastic power curtailment schedule imposed through a matter-of-fact government order with unscheduled extended power cuts to boot. What is more, the curtailment schedule is unfair and discriminatory in its implementation across the different regions of the state. The situation is even worse in rural Kashmir, where the power supply remains off for most of the hours, leaving the populace to suffer silently. The power crisis has also hit the industrial sector, which is facing a drastic decline in production.
At one level, this is deeply ironical. For we are a state, and it is a clichéd to repeat, which exports power to the rest of the country but faces severe electricity shortages through the year, more so in winter. Not only that, ours is also a state which exports electricity and imports the same at a hefty cost for its own consumption. And for this, successive state governments are squarely to blame.
True, Indus Water Treaty has fundamentally hobbled J&K’s capacity to exploit its water resources for power generation and there is little that the state can do so far as righting the wrongs under IWT are concerned. But the successive governments have showed little imagination to harness the water resources within the restrictions of the treaty. What is more, the state has failed to negotiate to its own advantage the various power projects it handed over for construction to National Hydroelectric Power Corporation. Or as is the case now, the government is finding itself helpless when it comes to buying back some of the projects from the corporation. And in case of Salal whose ownership by a cabinet order of 1975 was to revert to J&K following payment of a depreciated cost, NHPC is again cocking a snook at us.
However, what is shocking in the whole affair is how the government seems largely unconcerned at the state of affairs. The Chief Minister and even the power minister can’t seem to care less. Perhaps, because they know, when they talk of their “good governance”, it never includes the failures on power front. All that the government and the PDD are saying is to urge people to use power ‘judiciously” .
But, as the government itself knows, the problem is not the people but the ill-conceived and ad hoc policies of the successive state governments which have forced a state with a power generation potential of an estimated 20,000 MW to live permanently with reality of power cuts through the year.